Short Stories 366:262 — “Noctune,” by E.L. Chen

Okay, so I’m not going to confess how long I’ve had this anthology sitting on my e-reader, but I am going to say I’m so glad I remembered it was there and popped it onto the pile for this short story project because (a) Canadian and (b) Superheroes (or villains). Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories starts with this story, a Toronto superhero “origin” tale of sorts, where Dough—quintessential Canuck name—a kind of nobody/no-one who makes coffee at the local Starbucks starts to realize he’s… not kind of a nobody/no-one.

See, he’s dreaming, and when he dreams, he’s fighting crime in the same grey hoodie he’s falling asleep on his balcony in. And at first, that’s just a dream, right? I mean, coincidences happen? But as he starts to realize he knows as much about the crimes the superhero is stopping as the superhero would, it gets more confusing. Also, his girlfriend is maybe cheating on him and he’s definitely depressed and maybe this is in his head?

This one needs content warnings for suicidal ideation and depression, but as an opening story for the collection it begins with just enough of the two themes (Canada and superpowers) to make it clear what you’re in for. I also loved the various descriptions of Toronto that weren’t the usual rose-tinted shades version of “the centre of the universe” but something a bit closer to the lived reality. I enjoyed this, and settled in for the rest of the anthology.

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